The most important news, after the announcement itself, that the A.H. Belo Corp. was exploring the sale of The Providence Journal was the continuing admission by Belo that Rhode Island’s dominant daily was still “an important financial contributor to our company.”
This tidbit makes it more likely that any buyer who can reach an agreement with Dallas-based Belo won’t need to immediately embark on a take-no-prisoners cost-cutting that could cripple the newspaper even further. Under orders from headquarters, the local Journal management has been consistent in its approach to matching expenses to a continually declining revenue base, the most recent example of which was an October round of layoffs and buyouts.
The result of a shrinking Journal workforce sadly has been a diminishing ability to produce as robust a daily news report as the state had come to expect and enjoy. It would be in no one’s interest for the quality of what is left to decline even more.
The question of who would want to buy the Journal is not an idle one. The quality of the buyer, and its commitment to the state and the region, will say a lot about what kind of watchdog we will have on the job for years to come. In much the same way billionaire Red Sox owner John Henry came forward to buy The Boston Globe, the time is now for civic-minded investment in the strength and vitality of Rhode Island and the region. The stakes are just too high to have the outcome of this deal be a bad one. •